Independent Comics: Competing with the Big Boys

"Independent comic books, rather than mainstream output, gives creators the best platform in which to express their ideas." --

When I blogged about Marvel and DC Comics, the two major comic book publishers out there that have created the most well known, mainstream superheroes in pop culture, many of you emailed me, asking me when I would write about independent comics. There are many small publishers out there, bringing some great titles, characters, and stories to faithful comic readers as an alternative to the mass-market comic books that dominate the racks. (Heck, there are tons of Web-based comics that avoid print publication altogether but are definitely worth reading, but that's an entry for a different day.) So here's a quick look at what I consider the three most interesting independent comic publishers out there.

Dark Horse Comics -- My favorite is Dark Horse, which has done a fine job of competing with the bigger Marvel and DC. They're known for their comic spinoffs of existing franchises like Aliens, Predator, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Conan -- their Star Wars titles alone are probably some of the best tales in the saga since George Lucas gave us the Original Trilogy. They've also had some big successes that have turned into some fun movies: Hellboy, The Mask, Timecop, Alien vs. Predator, Mystery Men, Sin City, 300. (And some movies that were best forgotten, like Barb Wire, Virus, and Son of the Mask.) Other great titles in their lineup include Grendel, Concrete, The Goon, and Fear Agent which will soon be a major motion picture.

Image Comics -- I've never been much of an Image fan, but some of my friends swear that they're the best around, so who am I to judge. Aside from their best known titles, Spawn and Witchblade (and they continued the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics) they have a long lineup of other series that have drawn loyal followers: Pitt, The Savage Dragon, Shadowhawk, Youngblood, Supreme, WildC.A.T.s, Gen13, Wetworks, Cyberforce, The Darkness, Invincible, The Walking Dead, and Powers.

Top Cow Productions -- They've partnered with Image and others, and they've brought some good stories to the table, including Fathom, Rising Stars, and the excellent Wanted (which was turned into the recent blockbuster film). They've also done comics on popular franchises like Battle of the Planets, City of Heroes, Tomb Raider, and more.

So that's just some of the stuff that's out there if you're interested in exploring beyond the universes of Marvel and DC. Let me know if there are other independent publishers you recommend.